Not Exactly Hogwarts: Part 1

Denver’s traffic sucked.

Driving in from Denver International Airport wasn’t bad at first, but then we got into the city. That’s when we began to experience everything I hated about driving in Chicago. By that I mean having to pay attention to more cars and lanes than I wanted to.

Two lanes would merge into three, and I’d have to watch from all directions as cars around moved across the highway in different directions.

If I hadn’t been driving I might have been able to pay attention to the bright blue sky, and how different the landscape was. Left to itself, Michigan is covered with large trees.

Colorado tends to be covered with grasses, and small trees, many of which are evergreens. Not only can you see the sky, but you can see for a long way on the ground. Plus, any time you get a little height while you’re in Denver—by going down a long hill, for example—the Rocky Mountains loom in the distance.

It probably says something about me that my strongest association with mountains is Mordor.

But again, I wasn’t paying much attention to them. I was driving my van through rush hour traffic in Denver Colorado, and hating it.

“I could have driven,” Haley said.

She sat in the front passenger seat, tapping on her phone as she caught my eye. That was the good part of all this. We were driving from Denver International Airport to the Castle Rock Compound for the summer.

The Castle Rock Compound, a gated community for supers and their families, was hosting the students in the Stapledon program, and starting this summer, Haley was in the program.

That meant that unlike every Stapledon weekend during the past school year, I’d actually be able to see her.

“That’s okay,” I said. There were a lot of reasons for me to drive. The best was simply that the van was something of an unfinished engineering project, and explaining the workarounds for all the things that didn’t work quite right would take too long in a situation where we actually had to use them.

The other important reason was that Haley’s reflexes, agility, senses, and spatial judgement were superhuman, allowing her to fit vehicles into spaces other people didn’t even realize were an option.

This meant that her driving style probably matched some of the better trained drivers in the world, and also that riding with her was completely terrifying.

Glancing down at her phone for a second, she said, “Google Maps says the other highway is faster.”

“I know, but it’s a toll road.”

Ahead of us, the cars were slowing down in both lanes—not to zero but to forty-five. In short, we slowed down, but not to a crawl.

“A toll road?” She sounded as if she was about to start laughing. “I’m sure we could scrape together the money between the five of us.”

From behind me, Cassie said, “Wait, we’re taking the long route because you don’t want to pay a buck fifty?”

“It’d be more like three-forty. I checked the website.”

At that point, Haley started laughing for real, and Cassie said, “Oh, God.”

I could see her in the rearview mirror. Blond hair in a ponytail, Cassie wore jeans and a t-shirt. She was rolling her eyes.

In the seat behind Haley, Jaclyn said, “You know you’re probably wasting as much money in gas as you’re saving in tolls?”

I shook my head. “I’m not. The van runs on fuel cells. The engine noise is fake.”

Half in the mirror, Jaclyn shook her head, and raised her hands to stop me. “Okay, I’m done. Vaughn, what about you?”

“I’m too busy hanging with my friend the cabinet to pay attention.” Behind Cassie, Vaughn grinned.

The van only had one seat that far back. A cabinet took up the other half of the cabin. Everyone’s luggage sat in a pile behind Vaughn.

Cassie turned around, “Seriously Vaughn, joking about being stuck in the back with the cabinet is getting a little old.”

Vaughn ripped a piece of paper out of the notebook he was holding, and threw it at her.

Cassie’s arm blurred as she tried to catch it—tried being the operative word since she didn’t get it.

Jaclyn held the crumpled piece of white paper in a hand that was several shades darker. I hadn’t even seen her move.

With a hint of a smile, she tossed it to Cassie.

Cassie threw it back at Vaughn. It hit him on the forehead. “That’s barely fair at all,” he said.

He was grinning though.

Traffic aside, this felt good. The only way it could be better is if Daniel were with us. He’d opted to ride on the busses with his girlfriend Izzy, and everyone else in the program.

That was okay. They seemed to make each other happy.

Deciding to concentrate on the road, I realized that the cars in the right lane were merging into the left. A white semi-truck in the right lane turned on it’s blinker signal, and began to merge directly in front of me.

I let it.

Once it was in the lane, I could see why everyone was merging, and why we’d slowed down to ten miles per hour.

A line of vehicles—an SUV and two cars—had smashed into each other. Police cars, an ambulance, and a red and white truck (paramedics, I assumed) parked on either side of them, lights blinking.

Haley stared ahead at the crash. “I hope they’re okay.”

I nodded. “Me too.”

I wondered what route the Stapledon busses had taken. Alex had to be on one of them. Providing they weren’t dead, he’d be able to heal everyone.

I wondered if he would. I’d noticed that even though he and his father did spend time going to hospitals, they seemed to save most of their strength for supers.

22 thoughts on “Not Exactly Hogwarts: Part 1”

  1. I’ve been rereading LoN from chapter 1 these last few days and now that I’m up to the arc with Jack and Christine Maniac I couldn’t help but notice that you fairly frequently tend to use unnecessary commas in series and sequences.

    For example, within the span of a few chapter you listed a description as “now all black except for the gray, wolf’s head” and then “we all just waited on you, and Daniel to discover what was going on”. These aren’t the first instances of such superfluous punctuation I noticed either, just the two that are fresh enough in my mind to facilitate a direct quote.

    Grammatically speaking the commas in those sentences are just plain wrong. From a narrative standpoint commas may be useful for a variety of things, like providing emphasis, even if the are grammatically incorrect. Here they simply aren’t needed though and perhaps even disrupt the flow of the sentences in question somewhat.

    It’s a minor issue at worst really, but one I couldn’t help but notice and something you might wish to pay some attention to. The only reason I mention it at all is because I always appreciate it when people point out such errors to me. After all, you can’t correct something you aren’t even aware of.

    I also just realized I utilized quite a lot of words to point out a pretty small idiosyncrasy in your writing and my choice of words also veers towards “sesquipedalian loquaciousness”. Oh well, so be it.

  2. It seems I also made some typos in my own damn post, which really aggravates me, since it really does not come across very well to comment on someone else’s writing errors while making your own.

    Bollocks.

  3. That and he may not have found a good contractor who he can trust to put carpet in, someone with enough control over employees that they won’t touch things like the Genderswap Gun.

  4. Well, if they ever want to get that expanded locker/shower room everyone wishes for, they’ll definitely have to figure something creative out for contractors (Daniel probably wouldn’t be willing to just wipe their memories after the plumbing is installed). But to replace carpeting? It seems like something a group of super-powered individuals could probably handle.

    Maybe even in an extremely humorous bonus story???

  5. He should look up how the original base was made, I bet the records have some neat tricks. If he figured it out he could make a second locker room so they have one for each gender, but probably a single person one with an extra wide and tall door so it can be used buy suppers who are an odd shape, or not one of the two normal genders, or switch genders when they get wet.

    He could also add an extra record room for the boxs of paper work stacked around the main room, and a trophy hall to get some of the old team collected, with alcoves for the trophy’s with security built into each and a few that have hidden doors at the back to the high security trophy rooms for ones you don’t want to admit to having or that should not be seen. These should also have bidirectional security so you have security to stop people from breaking in, and stop it from escaping or affecting people outside the room.

    He could also add a few guest rooms for members in hiding or too tired to make it home at the end of a mission.

    Thank you for the great story! please keep it coming.

    ” any time you get a little height while you’re in Denver—by going down a long hill, for example” – wouldn’t getting height require going up? or having height right before going down the hill?

  6. I’d have to agree with “an avid reader”. While building a new locker room or expanding the base in any significant way may require contractors, replacing carpeting is a job most people can go the DIY route on even without having superpowers.

    Between an engineering genius capable of designing power armor that forms itself from a gray block, several people easily capable of ripping out the old and carrying in the new carpet in a snap and a few individuals with odd but useful abilities which for one of them may include the ability to form helpful tools out of his own body, it should be a piece of cake.

    Also, if they really can’t figure out how to do it, despite all of the above, other superhero groups like the Defenders must require some construction work every now and then. They should be able to provide the League with some tips and tricks for getting things done safely and probably have a list of vetted and trusted contractors.

  7. Eh, I kind of like the retro aesthetic in the base. They’ve managed well enough with it so far, Nick’s upgraded most of the essentials to modern standards, and it’s a nice reminder of the “filling grandad’s shoes” theme that’s been with the story from page one. I’m pretty sure Nick has the technical expertise to set up some plumbing, as well – he could probably build a small fleet of robots to do the manual labour, given a couple weeks. Walls are a bit of an issue, but partitions will do until all our main characters are doing the hero thing full-time and really feel a need to upgrade.

    And, come on. The gender-swap gun is non-lethal and expires after an extended duration. If anybody messes with it, worker’s compensation should cover the inconvenience.

  8. If I was Nick, I’d only do what’s necessary around the HQ. At the moment he’s a student who isn’t home every other weekend. He also has a girlfriend. Unless he wants to give up on sleep entirely, he simply doesn’t have the time to change everything about HQ.

    His grandfather built it after the war, during the years when he was more or less bored. I am pretty sure that once Nick finishes university he’ll have more time and get around to modernizing everything. A few cardboard boxes standing in the corner won’t hurt anyone until then.

  9. True enough Daemion,

    However, I think it would be fun for Nick to use roachbots to “eat” the old carpet, then use the raw materials to make new carpet.

    Think of the potential future applications! Textiles re-purposing!

  10. The English language is a ‘work in progress’, and trying to have a clear meaning and a good narrative is a really fun balancing act. For possible entertainment this link to “Fry’s English Delight” might be worth following:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00lv1k1

    People who’ve done computer programming can tend to get very picky about English syntax but the semantics, the meat, the meaning, is arguably the essence. Then there are the fun issues about human cognition and the strong desire to look for consistency. 🙂

    Re-furbishing a base – that’s more than just a bit of interior decorating. A super hero set-up may been to be pretty fire and other sorts of energies proof, need to quickly replace the atmosphere if it is contaminated, support a sensor net for security while still offering reasonable privacy, loads of things. And, that ignores all the repair and support procedures, which would need looking at. You may be able to understand why many super villains abandon their secret lairs and build new ones from scratch, each time. 🙂

    I continue to be impressed by the variety of story-telling threads woven into this. Please keep up the good work!

  11. @farmerbob & Jim:

    You do realize that for someone with the tinker-y nature of your main character, replacing carpeting (and doing bathroom renovations, for that matter) is a relatively simple process? Especially when he’s got superhumans able to help him out? Carpet’s basically just a big rug you glue or staple to the floor and hide the edges under trim. And doing plumbing is like playing with old-school tinkertoys in large part.

  12. I hate to be that guy but I was rereading the archives and realized that your traffic is heavier then it should be. Mostly because Denver international airport isn’t in Denver. Also if you ever do edit this you should mention the demon horse statue.

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